EngagePerspectives“Nature Rx” field trip to Awbury Arboretum
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“Nature Rx” field trip to Awbury Arboretum

Students in the “Nature Rx” course travel to Awbury Arboretum to experience the healing aspects of nature first hand.

The Schuylkill River looking north towards the Philadelphia skyline.
The Schuylkill River looking north towards the Philadelphia skyline.

As part of the “Nature Rx” course, the students and I have taken some trips to local gardens and arboretums. On October 25, we visited Awbury Arboretum and took a short tour of the 50+ acre site located in Germantown. Our guide, Nancy Pasquier, led us around paths and through fields, past a pond and a creek, meandering through the farm area where we encountered (and petted!) the herd of goats. We enjoyed periods of silent, mindful walking as well as conversation.

A pond at Bartrams Gardens.
A pond at Bartrams Gardens.

Awbury is free and open to the public, with programming (wellness activities, bird watching, yoga classes, etc.) and a vibrant urban farm that includes bee hives (an apiary), chickens, goats, a food forest, herb garden, and a fairly extensive area for food production by area growers such as Weaver’s Way Co-op. The land was preserved for the community by the Cope family whose former house serves as the administrative offices. There are also a handful of private homes scattered across the property. In addition to the domestic animals, we saw deer, groundhogs, squirrels (of course), a turtle in the pond, and a variety of birds. It was a reminder about how we can design cities to integrate nature into the lives of urban dwellers for the benefit of both people and local flora and fauna.

A quote on a swing at Bartrams Gardens.
A quote on a swing at Bartrams Gardens.

Here are some student observations about the trip:

Walking through the arboretum brought on a feeling of peace and calm, the light hum of cars going by almost blended in with natures melodies. The open fields gave me a sense of freedom and togetherness. I was really impressed and intrigued by the garden’s integration of a natural approach to farming which emphasized biodiversity. (Javier Carmona, C’24)

The other day of frustration was today, leading up to class and the experience at Awbury Arboretum.  I was going into this class in a bad mood from what had transpired earlier in the day, and I found the most noticeable change in my mood from any nature experience thus far.  I really tried to stay present (initially trying, but then my presence was natural), and I think the silent nature walk observing with all my senses helped a lot.  Even looking back at the pictures I added below, I am just in awe of the beauty of nature.  Yellow is my favorite color; it is the color of my room, which I associate with being a very calming place.  All the yellow leaves brought me calm.  I felt the tension I was holding in my body release over the time we were there.  I really want to try to take the train back here because I loved it so much! (Claire Hennessey, Nu’23)

While walking, I focused on the sunlight. I was captivated on times the light would shine on certain parts of trees, creating a haven of sun within the forest. Meeting all the different people at the arboretum, reminded me of Chapter 5 and how connecting with nature creates a shared identity. Everyone has a different role to play in the operations side, but they are all excited about their work and ready to share with others.(Anonymous)

Here are instructions on how to use photography to make the most of being in nature.


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